Sunday, January 30, 2011

Observations on Entertaining in Oman

Omanis are very famous for their hospitality... which is a very great thing if you are an expat or a tourist.

Invitations for meeting Omani families abound with a "come for a meal" or just for "qhawa" [i.e Omani coffee], usually accompanied by dates, helwa [Omani sweet], tea, pistachios, almonds, cashews, and various sliced fruit. Probably Mountain dew, Vimto, and Tang, as well.

If you are an Omani, you MUST, absolutely MUST keep all these things on hand at all times for your guests, which could arrive at any time, without notice, and for certain, without a phone call

Which is fine, if you are a bored housewife, and have little else to do right?
I am no bored stay at home house wife, but Omani entertaining varies VASTLY from the kind of entertaining I am personally skilled at. I have no skill at Omani entertaining because a. I need notice for people to come. [I was the girl who hand-made, and then hand delivered invites to build hype for my soirees once-upon-a-lifetime-ago] b. I like to be dressed nice. [Now, I'm lucky if I have time to brush my hair and smear on some eyeliner let alone try on a nicer dress than the one I wore for cleaning and cooking].

c. I like to have the house nice. [When your guest just shows up at your door, you hide your knickers, and kick anything embarassing behind the couch cushions/musada].

d. I like to plan special little details to be appreciated for my guests. [If it is a movie night with girlfriends, I make popcorn, and cute appetizers, and make the room more comfy and glam- in Oman, the only details people get to notice is I don't have much ready for them, not even sliced fruit or nuts in a bowl!!!!]

e. I need time to go grocery shopping because I don't keep things that can go bad on hand. [Honestly, I eat out alot, and don't really keep alot of fresh fruit in the house that can turn in a few days.]

and f.: I generally like visiting to have a reason. [In Oman, it is part of the culture to visit for absolutely no reason, and to not even have anything new or worthwhile to talk about when one visits]. If it is to catch up with a neighbor or friend, and little prep need be involved, I am ok. For a stranger, I want time to clean the house (at least the majlis/living room ect).

Omani entertaining usually involves no time for prep. If you are lucky, you get a day.

For those back in the home country who liked to tease me and call me Martha Stewart with all my do-it-yourself work, projects, and plans, it would surprise them vastly to hear I am a horrible hostess. Me, who once got paid just to show up at parties or host them for others, what seems a thousand lifetimes ago now.

Yes, dear non-Muslim friends and family of yore, I am a horrible hostess by Omani standards. I hate the whole process, and I cannot abide to listen to women gossiping about eachother or talking about the same old same old boring on repeat.

You may not believe it, friends at present, that while I was never famous for my cooking (I famously poisoned many Muslim women at an Eid dinner by not defrosting some meat before cooking it), I was a rather lauded hostess. I did get paid to show up at parties (my great style and conversational skills I am sure [which are no avail in Omani hosting being I am not a conversationalist in Arabic, and my dress has to be a form of Muslim dress] being the reason), and friends and co-workers always coerced me into hosting and planning their affairs.
A visit with other women to me is a few things:

It is to chat: and thus non-alcoholic cocktails, girly clothing, and cute appetizers should be the order of the day, or a tea party-esque adventure.

It is to eleviate boredom. Numerous kinds of these bits.

I am just no good at this no planning but a little thing. To be honest, it gets very, very boring to me. A repeat of the same, on the same, on the same.

And where I am moving in a few years (have to, my house is there) same will apply with multiples of 2-3 guests a day, the only variation of daily routine in entertaining possibly being related to rather traditional Omani white weddings.

How I miss harvest themed festivals, and friends that threw Marie Antionette themed parties!

Aalia, from "Chasing-Jannah " was once my favourite host, as her tea was immaculately delicious, and her cute Marie Antionette movie party with pink cream soda and cake from Daniel's Pattiserie was wonderful [though I loved the new conversations and lack of gossip]. Remember that rainy boring day Aalia?

Anyways, I think I will try to creative-up my Omani girlfriends and their family members, and an OPNO or two. A party is planned this summer to unveil my new back yard. Theme: of course garden party.
Anyways, for once I will post pics:)


♥ααℓiα♥ said...

OMG I totally remember!! HEY btw I got ur private message and u are such a sweetie awww <3 We have lots to talk about and if u are planning a little something on that date, I am gonna come *for sure* inshaaAllah. Wouldn't miss it for the world :-D

LoL @ that rainy day xoxo

Umm Ibrahim said...

salaams...LOL...its EXACTLY THE SAME WAY in Iran which I absolutely loath...cept Iranians have this concept goin call "Taroof" which is like...I donno how to explain it...but its very very very annoying, especially if you have lived in the US your whole life...because its just tedious to deal with.

But I digress, anytime we are in Iran both dh and I get very very angstful-especially me, I'm not famous in DH's village for being a rude hostess...LOL...because I LOATH random people just barging in, expecting me to jump up, make all kinds of tea and bring sweets and fruit and sometimes its at a very bad time, and sometimes its like 10,000 people show up and esp when its men with their wives and I dono their wives so I'm stuck being stared down by some woman who is too shy to even say anything beyond the normal taroof bullsh*t because I'm here from the USA. I could go ON and ON!

Oh yes, one time, after we married we went and we had these RANDONM people that NO ONE in the entire family even knew who they up with a VIDEO CAMERA to film me-, did I get angry as did my husband and the rest of la familia...because you can't just do that to someone. But like they thought i was OK because I was there from the US and therefore...I donno...not a REAL Muslim and not a REAL hejabi.

LOL...I could go on and on, but I wont...anyway...yah in Iran this is the norm and I dispise its NOT hard to call before coming over...oh that and full-day picknics which resemble kidnappings...yah, ugh.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Aalia: honestly, I remember we were both bummed out that day with being annoyed at hubbies lol, and we couldn't go for a walk really cuz it was pouring, and it would have been dull to troll the mall, again. But somehow that day was perfect!

BTW, you still make the BEST tea ever.

I have though, been working on prefecting my chai magraibi, and learning to cook tangines (mmmmm yummy) since I love Morrocan stuff. That DOES scare inlaws though, since Khaleeji women have it in for poor Morrocans lol. They are like, ahhhhhh, he loves the white girl because she like magraibi, lol :XD

Which isn't it AT ALL. But from observing a few Morrocan ladies married to Khaleeji guys, the attention they give the men, to caring for their bodies and dressing nice in the home, to actually spending time with their own children, and making their husband tea and sweets, KINDA makes a difference to the guys lol. That is really the charm of the Morrocan ladies, not anything else :)

Yep, I wanna plan something special. And will involve pink for you, green for me, purple or red for Boxie, blue for my other OPNO, ect, ect.

Alas, the UAE is hard to visit now, or I'd already have come. Give me a few months and the price will be cheaper for me:) because I will have been a resident for a while.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Umm Ibrahim: wa alaikom e salaam, lol, yes it sounds like Irani villagers are the same as Omani ones. Except no one has come to video-tape me yet. But people who really have no interest in forming a friendship visit for no good reason, just to "see" the Westerner lol.

What are kidnapping picnics like?
We don't have those.

Oh YES!!!! I hate those. Hubsand's friend brining their wives I can't make convo with. They end up sitting there texting on their cellphones lol.

I WISH people would PHONE. Give one 3-4 hours advance notice. One can spot clean, run to the store, cook, and dress before they arrive. IF ONLY.

Martha Steweart herself would die here, I swear.

Muscat Mitchells said...

We love having parties here...but I panic about my lovely green rug! Not everyone takes their shoes off! lol. But now our garden is looking better we'll be having garden parties too!

I remember when we first got here, I was so intent on fitting in to the Omani life (western expat non-muslim...oh-kaaaaay!). So one of the things I did was make sure I had a flask of Omani coffee on the go every day...just in case my only Omani aquaintance (the lovely man from hubby's work who helped us sort the house) came by on the off-chance. He came by only once and didn't want coffee!!!!!

Us girls have movie mornings (whilst the kids are at school), coffee and scrummy things to eat....but with about a week's notice at least!

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Muscat Mitchells: You are British right? My fam is French/pseudo British, but Brits don't always take off shoes right? French ettiquette ladies have house shoes and fancy slippers, but usually take shoes off. I'm just curious:) I love graden parties, and entertaining. Yours sound lovely. Omani ones though, you have NOOOOO planning time AT ALL. LOL@ u keeping the coffee. You have to learn the hostess technique (very well employed by Arab women in general) of FORCING people to have what you have on hand;) But that is sweet of you. I would have drunk it. MOP & his wife would have had tea, and dates. MOP, the most Omani Omani that I know, he likes coffee only if you have a sweet on hand, like helwa or date syrup.

Muscat Mitchells said...

Yes, I am British...but now realise I HATE sandy floors! I tried to have house slippers but forgot on more than one occasion and then wore them outside!

Glad you would have drunk it :-) do you know how to make it from scratch? I also think that I'd just make tea now as that's mostly what I drink...just a matter of waiting for the Omani visitors now, now that the Census people don't call anymore! Am I trying too hard?!!! ;-D But I assure you there are always dates in the house and I have a jar of date syrup (my little girl loves it!).

Thank you for your garden comments...we're getting there slowly! And I think I'll try the forcing technique!! But I'm just a soft english girl, lol!

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Muscat Mitchells: If you go to Safa house in Al Hamra off from Nizwa, which is open every day of the week I believe if you arrive anywhere between 10 am- 2 pm, they make the qahwa from scratch, and show you all the phases. Even how to roast the beans:) Muscat festival probably has the same thing going on.

I always buy the pre-mixed bag with seelani with cardamon already in it, and add rosewater. It depends which region in Oman, for the exact strength of coffee and if one adds rosewater or safron to it. I find Beduoin usually add safron, and the interior regions like their qhawa darker than on the coast, ect.

Muscat Mitchells said...

Oooh, thankyou...I'm going to do some research. Have good day.